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May 15, 2020

7 Ways to Reassure Client-Facing Teams in Turbulent Times


No one needs to be told that times have changed dramatically in just the past few weeks. It’s staggering how quickly things have been turned on their heads. Those who can are working remotely. Many of our personal and professional connections have been cut off. We’re all just trying to figure out the best way to communicate and collaborate with each other. It’s difficult to remember a time when there has been more uncertainty in virtually every single category of our lives.

The fact of the matter is that we’re seeing layoffs and economic downturn in almost every industry, leading to market volatility. From a business perspective, in-person training has been canceled, product launches have been postponed or disrupted, new hires delayed or onboarded remotely, and prospect meetings rescheduled. This is affecting many professions, but especially those with client-facing teams.

To help you understand and respond to these new challenges, we tapped into the expertise of two financial services professionals: Joseph D. Kringdon, former managing director, Columbia Threadneedle and former president, Pioneer Investments, and Mark Magnacca, president and co-founder, Allego.

Here are seven insights from our webinar—How to Reassure Client-Facing Teams in Turbulent Times—to help you regain some control and be proactive in this unprecedented situation.

Watch On-Demand Today: How to Reassure Client-Facing Teams in Turbulent Times

 1. The financial service industry has weathered crises in the past.

“When you’re going through hell, just keep on going,” — Winston Churchill.

These are unprecedented times, but financial services firms have seen other moments of extreme uncertainty. Just in the past 30 years, we faced 1987’s Black Monday, when the market declined 24% in one day, the tech bubble in 2000, the credit crisis in 2003, the housing market collapse in 2008. At times like this, people look for a way forward.

The biggest difference between now and then is that this is a global event and the impact is not only economic and financial, but there are big stresses around health. People are concerned about their own health and about the health of their friends and family.

People are also worried about job security. Many industries will be upended by this all, so that adds stress. This is an event that was unplanned for and it has an indeterminate time frame in terms of when it’s going. That creates greater anxiety. We know, eventually, it will end and hopefully in a positive way.

2. Never before have so many people needed to learn so much so fast.

In our personal lives, we’ve all tried to become experts on the coronavirus to understand how to keep our families and ourselves safe. So many people, literally in the last 30 days, went from never having worked at home to becoming full-time remote workers.

“Even for those who had spent some time doing remote work, it’s a completely different environment when you’re working from the home office versus being home and having your entire family home or in some cases caring for children and doing home schooling while you’re working at home,” said Mark Magnacca.

3. Clear communication is more important than ever.

Firms need to equip client-facing teams with clear information on a platform that’s accessible across locations and time zones. “One of things that we’re seeing is the importance of over-communicating and having some kind of regular cadence to update people on your point of view and what’s happening,” said Mark.

Joe shared his experience at Columbia Threadneedle when the Brexit vote happened in 2016. The firm made sure that advisors were equipped with thoughtful talking points and how the vote impacted the investment strategy.

“We were a global firm with clients all over the world. We knew that people would want to know our opinions depending on which way the vote went, and what it meant for their strategies. We asked our London-based strategist to record two videos: one with the implications if Brexit was voted in and one that was if it was voted out,” recalled Joe.

4. Firms need to share information quickly to inspire confidence.

Firms need the ability to get a message out quickly and to inspire confidence in their direction. One difference between this crisis and the past is that, as recently as the first two months of this year, firms could still pull everybody together at a town meeting to share information across teams. But what’s become a universal experience now is that almost everybody is remote.

“What we’re seeing across our customer base is communication calendars featuring different subject matter experts,” said Mark.

Another factor is that information is becoming irrelevant much faster. Brexit unfolded over a period of years before it was resolved. But today, information from two days ago may actually be irrelevant. Firms need an agile mindset around content creation to be able to have a wide range of respected subject matter experts contribute and quickly disseminate information.

Instead of coordinating schedules across time zones and locations, firms are recording daily market updates and sharing those so that advisors can watch when they can.

“Even if you’re watching an hour later or two later, that could make a big difference in terms of making sure everybody on the team is armed with the same information,” said Mark. “We don’t have the ability to casually interact with our colleagues like we did when we were in the office. We have to be much more intentional about our communications.”

5. Leadership should be visible and intentional.

During times like these, it’s important for leaders to be present, calm and reassuring. They should try, when possible, to provide some context by talking about how firms have persevered through other challenging events and share what they think is the way forward. This will give their teams people confidence and “the will to move.”

6. Companies are adapting to tackle new challenges.

One of the ways firms are adapting is by shifting live events to virtual ones. “It’s been amazing to watch companies in financial services, medical devices and high tech adapt to this environment and do so in a matter of weeks,” said Mark. “We have customers who had live training events scheduled. They were able to use our platform to quickly get up to speed to turn that into a virtual event. People are realizing that they’ve got to find a way to adapt, and they’re not necessarily going to go back to the way that it was.”

But hosting a virtual or remote training is not the same as just taking a live training and putting it on Zoom. “People are getting zoomed in and zoned out,” noted Mark. Being on a 90-minute (or longer) Zoom call takes an enormous amount of energy, even when you are a participant. Most of us aren’t set up to be able to do that for long periods of time.

Allego customers are rethinking training, capturing short videos and sending them in advance followed by a short 30-minute live call. This gives teams a chance to interact but avoids Zoom fatigue. It also helps create the personal interaction that’s missing, when wholesalers don’t have time to have an individual call with every single advisor.

Ash Brokerage, for example, is using an innovative approach. The firm is using Allego’s external share feature to share content with a wide range of participants who are attending one of their now virtual summits. They’re able to personalize the content for specific financial advisors and learn who’s watching it.

7. Companies are rethinking training models.

People are shifting the way they think about learning. They’re realizing that learning doesn’t have to be based on the academic model from which most training programs were derived. The traditional approach was based on the fact that you had to be present in person  for some specified period of time to be able to learn. Training during the pandemic has shown us that it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Corporate America may now embrace the concept of bite sized learning, helping people learn in the flow of work, and frankly make it a better experience across the board rather than forcing people into the old fashioned agenda that existed but is perhaps no longer relevant,” said Mark.

Learn More

Watch How to Reassure Client-Facing Teams in Turbulent Times On-Demand.


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